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Nigerian Army begins campaign to stem violence between Christians and Muslims

Thu 20 Apr 2017
By Premier Journalist

The Nigerian army says it has launched a month-long operation to reduce violence between Christian farmers and Muslim herders in the centre of the country.

The Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Buratai said the aim of the exercise, which began yesterday, is to ensure that the southern Kaduna area is kept safe.

"I know it has been in the press and it has generated a lot of interest but we are determined to shoulder the major responsibility of keeping the peace always and it is better to do this job than to leave it until it goes out of hand. God forbid," he said.

The army released a statement saying it will also offer humanitarian aid to the region, including medical support.

Precise figures for deaths are hard to come by, but according to government figures, hundreds of people have died in the ethnically charged clashes in Kaduna State.

The fighting pressures the government who is already tackling Boko Haram in the northeast and militants in the oil-rich south.

President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler and Muslim has been accused by Nigerian politicians of not responding firmly to the attacks and has been widely criticised for repeatedly shying away from commenting on the violence.

Church leaders have consistently stated that authorities should be doing more.

Speaking this week, Most Revd Dr Joseph Danlami Bagobiri, Bishop of Kafanchan Diocese said: "The primary responsibility of government as enshrined in the constitution is the protection of life and property of citizens irrespective of ethnic and/or religious persuasion. Any breach of this fundamental principle of social contract contravenes the very reason for which Government exist for [sic].

"Unfortunately, our government both at the Federal and State levels have failed woefully in this regard because of their inability to rise above ethnic and religious bias.”

His comments comes as reports suggest at least 12 people were killed and many more injured when Fulani militiamen attacked Asso Village in the Jema’a local government area (LGA) of Kaduna State in central Nigeria on April 15.

Religious freedom charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide says that despite claims by the army of action, the opposite has been seen in some areas with police and soldiers being withdrawn from conflict areas before the Easter weekend.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW said: “Once again we find ourselves condoling another community in southern Kaduna that has been devastated by a militia that appears able to attack at will and to evade an extensive military presence with ease. The attack on Goska on Christmas Eve 2016 ought to have underlined the need for increased protection for predominantly Christian communities in the area during significant seasons in the Christian calendar. Yet, in a move that is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable, the security contingent stationed in Asso was reduced significantly on Good Friday, with predictable and tragic consequences.”

“The continuation of attacks in which perpetrators are neither apprehended nor identified underscores the ongoing failure of government to fulfil its primary mandate of protecting citizens. If the Kaduna State government is to restore the confidence of a significant proportion of the local populace, it must, as a matter of urgency, initiate and intensify efforts aimed at tracing, disarming and prosecuting the killers; compensating and caring for survivors, and restoring  occupied  lands to their rightful owners.“

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